Album: Fig. 5
Artist: Jackie-O Motherfucker
Reason Featured: #20 Album for Pitchfork’s Top Twenty Albums of 2000
My Favorite Songs: Your Cells Are In Motion, Amazing Grace, Beautiful September
Their Grades: Pitchfork (9.2/10)
My Grade: 76%
It’s pretty funny to think 2000 was the year Radiohead lost fans for getting so “experimental” with Kid A when albums like this were coming out alongside it. Next to Fig. 5, Kid A looks like the latest One Direction record. Funnily enough, the first thing the bizarro Americana (Can this be classified as that? As anything?) on this put me in mind of was Johnny Greenwood’s soundtrack for There Will Be Blood. Violins sound like saws, drums resonate like a slow-moving jackhammer, the vocals are more interested in being heard than pleasing their listener in any way. It’s mechanical and organic all at once, folk/jazz/blues/all-those-traditional-genres meets the spirit of industrial music. If Trent Reznor was born in the late 1800s, Fig. 5 is the symphony he would’ve conducted.
Perhaps I’m just too conventional but it always bothers me when bands show moments of such clear melodic promise only to squander them in meandering experimentation. “Your Cells Are In Motion” and “Beautiful September” are still very odd by any standard but they at least give you more to sink your teeth into. Both are around ten minutes long and held my attention even more than some of the even shorter tracks due to the presence of a certain amount of sonic relatability.
There’s a strange hypnosis this weird-as-all-hell record induces in me which makes me think I could end up returning to it more often than I thought at first. Say what you will about their inaccessibility: you’d be hard pressed to find anyone else who wanted to usher in a new millennium by recording songs as atonal as they were traditional (“Go Down, Old Hannah”), a nearly unrecognizable cover of the most famous hymn ever written (“Amazing Grace”) and 25 minutes of indiscernible and (some would say: pretentious) noise (“Michigan Avenue Social Club”). All to say I’m deeply intrigued by this album but only a little impressed.
So ends my serious assessment of a record by a band named Jackie-O Motherfucker.